[Paleopsych] meaning and entropy, meaning and waste

HowlBloom at aol.com HowlBloom at aol.com
Sun Sep 26 05:42:35 UTC 2004

Eshel Ben-Jacob has brought a very important concept into the dialog that 
goes on here.  It’s “meaning”.  Meaning and its relationship to 
relationships--its relationship to  sociality, its relationship to linguistics, its 
relationship to context.  Eshel's  latest paper, “Seeking the Foundations of 
Cognition:From Thermodynamics to Contextual Information and Back”, is forcing me to 
rethink old thoughts about entropy in slightly new ways.  So please bear with me as 
I try to tie a few threads of thought together.
Entropy is related to meaning.  Not to information, at least not in Shannon’s 
sense of information… but to meaning.   Energy is motion that can be put to 
work.  Entropy is disordered energy.  Entropy is the waste made by work—
specifically by the work of a “heat engine”—by the work of a steam engine.  Waste is 
energy teasing the cosmos, daring the universe to make its next creative 
upgrade, the upgrade that will harness the mischief of waste.  Waste is energy 
waiting for meaning.  It is energy waiting for a rider that can tame it, for a 
harvester who can use it to achieve whatever purpose the harvester is aiming 
Let’s get back to entropy.  Waste is entropy.  And entropy is waste.  Waste 
is just a temporary state.  It’s a state that invites the evolution of the 
goals and of the gizmos—living or dead—that produce meaning.  300,000 ABB (after 
the big bang), atoms gave the random movement of protons and electrons a new 
meaning.  380,000 ABB gas wisps gave atoms new meaning.  Roughly 600,000 ABB 
galaxies gave gas wisps new meaning. Then came stars, giving an entirely new set 
of meanings to atoms, gas wisps, and galaxies. 

Today we are giving the photons shed by those stars new meaning every day in 
the offices of astrophysicists, in the interpretations of astrologers, in the 
myths of indigenous peoples, in the wonder evoked in those who stare at the 
stars from dark fields in the American Midwest, from porches in Portland Maine 
and Portland Oregon, and from rooftops in Beijing and Beirut.
Which leaves us with a few more questions and a few more hints at answers.  
What is meaning?  What’s the difference between meaning and information?  Are 
meaning and information separable?  

Goals are a part of meaning.  What does it take to produce a goal?  
Here’s a guess.  It takes a sense of past and a sense of future.  Why? 
Because goals compact the past to predict to a future.  
If that’s true, do atoms really give new meaning to protons and electrons?  
Does a proton or an electron have enough past compacted within it to anticipate 
a future?  Is that anticipation really necessary to meaning?  
Does it take a vast mesh of another of this cosmos’ inventions—molecules—to 
give meaning to atoms?  How vast must that mesh be before it anticipates a 
future?  How vast must that interacting society of atoms be to create the first 
primitive scenario of "what's next"?
Here’s another question, this one inspired by the concepts of Paul Werbos and 
Pavel Kurakin.   If time is reversible, is the future spreading its tendrils 
as much into the past as the past is spreading its tendrils into the future?  
If the future is beckoning us forward through the sheer power of a future to 
attract all that a cosmos holds, how would that change the meaning of meaning?  
And what would the nature be of the future's attractive power?
Sorry for pestering you with so many questions, but the meaning of meaning—
the latest of Eshel’s fertile mysteries—seem worth re-perceiving.

Howard Bloom
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of 
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 
21st Century
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Core 
Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic 
of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The 
Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American 
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy 
of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International 
Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive 
editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see: 
for two chapters from 
The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, 
see www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang 
to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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